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Sexist italian press on Lisa Randall October 2, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, language, news, physics, science.

I received this morning from my friend Francesco a clip from a recent number of L’Espresso, a weekly italian magazine on politics and culture. It is a small piece on Lisa Randall. Here is the clip:

I think the title says it all: “What a beastly physique” – a joke based on the fact that in italian, “fisico” means both “physicist” and “body” (or “physique”, or “build”), and that “fisico bestiale” is a popular way of calling a person who has a remarkable body.

So, L’Espresso is a sexist magazine, at least if we follow the standards of those who reproached me for my description of Lisa’s outfit in a post discussing her seminar on black holes. Surely. It is a fact that L’Espresso often sports succintly dressed beauties on the cover page, but you would be mistaken if you likened it to Playmen or other gentleman’s magazines: it is rather the equivalent of Newsweek in the US.

Does that ring a bell to our bigot friends ? I doubt it.


1. Randall - October 2, 2007

Frankly I do not see the problem.

All the most influent magazines over the world (Newsweek, Time, Der Spiegel and so on) makes this kind of jokes or this kind of comments.

Where is the scandal here? Sincerely I do not know…people should be a bit narrow-minded if they think this is a problem…



2. dorigo - October 2, 2007

Of course there is no problem… For most of us.
After being targeted by the organized blame of a few bigots and labeled a sexist by them, I am pulling their leg every now and then…


3. Randall - October 2, 2007

Ok, I have now read the entire “Sexygate” scandal from your other post.

I have got the point. I personally think that the entire issue rised by many people is closer to Sci-fi than real life.



4. Louise - October 2, 2007

As Tommaso has said before, acknowledging that a woman is attractive should not be a problem. If bigots were really concerned about oppression of women, they would complain about Iran.

5. island - October 2, 2007

Damn!… if I had posted just a little sooner I could’a been sandwiched between the two hottest thangs in physics… 😉

6. r - October 2, 2007

Tommaso, making friends? 🙂

I can’t see anything wrong now, L’Espresso, or in your earlier post.


7. Amara - October 2, 2007

How can you be sure that L’Espresso didn’t get their subject idea from your blog? Journalists have severe time-constraints and/or are lazy sometimes.

8. dorigo - October 2, 2007

Wow, Amara – that is a blow under the belt. You’re diabolic! 🙂

… And indeed, you might even have guessed right. Reality can indeed outdo fiction.


9. changcho - October 2, 2007

Ha ha! “Che fisica bestiale”, nice play on words!

10. Stefan Scherer - October 2, 2007

Hi Tommaso,

what does the text actually say? It seem that she says somthing about the problems to find adequate clothes, and the positive ascpects of getting older… is there any non-gossip content 😉 ?

Best, Stefan

11. nc - October 2, 2007

My favourite drawing by Lisa is her great depiction of risk-taking in physics:


It is cheering when risks are acknowledged, so that physics is not endless hype until experimental evidence arrives. 🙂

12. Amara - October 3, 2007

Tomasso: Of Italian nonscientific journalists writing about science- they often write garbage!

I lost all respect for these journalists last December, when every major newspaper and TV station in the country reported that DNA was found in the dust of comet Wild 2. The journalists’ news was the result of a press conference of Stardust results from several Italian coauthors of a Science paper. The end result was a mess with the observatory scientists trying to correct the journalists’ mistakes and the journalists writing the sensational news that they thought their readers would like to read. Both sides not hearing the other. Both sides needing the other.

P.S. The journalism majors outnumber the science majors at La Sapienza University about 1000 times.

13. Thomas Larsson - October 3, 2007

Stefan: Short Italian exercise, with a little help of a dictionary. I’m sure Tommaso can correct the errors.

What beastly physics.

The problem for Lisa Randall, prodigy girl first at Harward, then at Mit, Berkely and Princeton, was not to dress in a frivolous manner. “Because it is difficult for a woman scientist to find proper clothing.” Today, at age 45, when she has a chair at Harvard and is one of the 200 most influential people on the globe according to “Time”, professor Randall can ignore whether or not she wears moccasins and plated skirts. “The beautiful thing about growing old is that one no longer thinks about it”. Especially if you have rewritten the theory of the universe with a book that revolutionizes the theories of physics, “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions”, and you have a top physique.

14. jeff - October 3, 2007

Hey guys
what can you expect from the journalists of a country where pinching or touching a women’s bum without her consent is not violence but just an insult (news on today’s italian newspapers).

15. Matteo Martini - October 3, 2007

Wait a sex..
Er, I mean..
Wait a sec..

Is the poster named ” Randall ” the real person?
Is she the real Lisa Randall?

Clarification needed, please..

16. jeff - October 3, 2007


Fisico bestiale = beastly physique
Of course “beastly” is intended as outrageously attractive

17. Amara - October 3, 2007

Jeff: The courts are inconsistent on that issue, but that doesn’t matter. From what I’ve observed here, bending or breaking Italian laws appears to be a kind of sport.

18. dorigo - October 3, 2007

Hi Stefan,

the translation by Thomas is quite good… Thanks Thomas!

Hi Nigel – wow, I am unimpressed by Lisa’s drawing skills! 😉

Dear Amara: I know, it is quite depressing. But what do you expect from a country that reads only pink newspapers ? (to be clear for others: sports news).

Matteo, no – the commenter comes from Bremen.

Cheers to all,

19. Randall - October 3, 2007


No, I am not Prof. Randall. Mine is just the usual nickname I use on the web. It is just a coincidence.

First of all I am a male and second I am not such a succesfull physicist as Prof. Randall is 🙂



20. Guess Who - October 3, 2007

The Espresso text looks like a rip-off on the “Ageless Beauty” piece in Vogue:


(now that is a great picture!).

Let’s see, what shall we get all worked up about today? Sexism, ageism or plagiarism?

21. Stefan Scherer - October 3, 2007

Hi Thomas and Tommaso,

thanks for the translation!

Cheers, Stefan

22. Quasar9 - October 3, 2007

lol Tommaso,
Rest assured that Lisa Randall as a Physicist is as concerned with particle decay, ageing – and the lighting on any photo shoot – as any other female who looks in the mirror and still tries to look her best.

But that is some compliment from Amara, that your post on this blog and the ensuing debate may have brought ‘Lisa Randall’ and her extraordinary Mind & Looks to the attention of the beastly press … as if the glossy magazines in Italy or indeed anywhere need to be reminded. The whole idea of glossy magazines is to gloss over and take glossy pics.

It would have been ‘wild’ if that first comment would have been from the real L Randall – (but maybe she comments anonymously).

23. Matteo Martini - October 3, 2007

And she is 45!!
Can not believe she looks so good..

She must have invented some matter-antimatter machine, for time travel, in order to keep looking young and beautiful..

Sorry for the politically-incorrect, sexist comment on prof. Randall..

24. dorigo - October 3, 2007

GW, you are probably right. I too have the suspicion that the writer of L’Espresso got “inspired” by Vogue.

Quasar9, Lisa told me she would comment on the physics of my original post on her seminar (which she did read), but apparently she did not find the time to do it, or decided the comment column had gone bad in the meantime. Anyway yes, her casual comments on this column would have been a scoop.

Matteo, pictures do no age, as Oscar Wilde taught as quite a while ago… But I can confirm she is a beautiful woman from having met her a month ago.


25. Qubit - October 3, 2007

Lets hope two swinderlers come alone and try and sell her the most magnificent fabrics imaginable : ). She could show them off on the cover of FHM.

I suppose she could then tell the world, that M theory goes against everything we know about string theory. M theory should have strings but it appears to work without them, all the other string theories need strings but M theory can stand-alone. The thing is M theory should have strings, it should need strings, but it seems to not have them? Pinocchio does not have strings either (but he should have), that is, as long he does not tell us the biggest lie ever!

I have this piece wood, upon this piece of wood is a design that been copied from another piece of wood. The latter piece of wood is old, very old! Its design is something very interesting, very interesting indeed.

Here is a Question and my problem

M theory has the potential to be the holy grail of science, this piece of wood also has the potential to be the holy grail of science. M theory is a description of Pinocchio, but this piece of wood could actually be Pinocchio! Which has the greatest potential?

The problem is; that, there is a chance that this is piece of wood is the real Holy Grail!

How long is my nose now?

Pinocchio the story is the TOE! HOW? Spill the beans, come clean. Tell us the truth! Hawking Radiation? Come on you can do better than, its part of Pinocchio! Surly all you top scientist was not expecting to fool everyone? DOH!


26. Amara - October 4, 2007

Wow, Matteo, you must have different experiences than I have, of people who are 45.

27. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Hi Qubit,

I don’t think we’ll ever see Lisa wearing the emperor’s dress on the cover of a magazine. But I do think that if a a successful theoretical physicist gets good press is a good thing, even if it entails discussing fashion. People like to read about it, but in the meantime you send the message that theoretical physics may be fashionable itself 🙂

As for the rest of your comment, I am reading it for the third time this morning and it still puzzles me 🙂


28. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Amara, I concur … And I am quickly reaching that age myself, which speaks volumes about the matter!


29. Qubit - October 5, 2007

Dont worry it still puzzles me, Its sort of like AI (the film) on a universal scale with enternal return thrown in for good measure; the naked universe with clothes that can only fit cinderella! 🙂

“ Once upon a time, there was … ‘A king!’ my little readers will say right away. No , children, you are wrong. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood…. „

30. Vera - October 6, 2007

No, I don’t believe this is a sexist comment. I think appreciating a woman’s beuty is not that insulting, and besides L’Espresso in, generally, a good newspaper. It would have been different if her beuty were the only matter of the whole article, but it’s not, so I don’t see the problem at all.

31. dorigo - October 6, 2007

Hi Qubit,

I like a lot both the movie AI and the book Pinocchio… It was one of my favorite books in my youth.

Hi Vera,

yes – and I encourage you to follow the link to the original post on Lisa’s seminar here, which was the source of a huge debate.


32. Qubit - October 12, 2007

Hi Dorigo,

I like AI too, but Pinocchio always seemed a little old fashioned to me; I prefer the AI version of it. Although since reading about string theory Pinocchio has become a very interesting story.

It looks to me the M theory is dressed in string theories, but M theory can stand naked; without strings. To me this is just the same problem as Quantum mechanics and relativity; which can also be referred to the Emperors New Clothes, every one should know that story, for those that don’t; it starts off with two swinderlers telling everyone that there is a thread that has amazing properties (String), that this string can be weaved into the most amazing fabrics (branes) that only smart people can see (String theory, M theory). But of course this a lie, the cloth is imaginary, but because nobody wants to been seen as stupid everyone imagines its real cloth…

String Theory is missing the ability to create universes, it needs an object that can take imaginary things and make them real, string theory needs Pinocchio (M Theory)! String theory needs Pinocchio, but Pinocchio does not need strings!

Do you know what is the only thing that’s missing? It’s the Centrefold! The singularity is the Horizon (the centrefold), because it’s the only thing that cannot be observed directly! Everything else we already know about, the Emperor or Pinocchio can’t possibly be the singularities because one can be seen to be naked and other has no strings.

So Lisa what about doing the centrefold? Or is this something that is too “inappropriate” or degrading to Theoretical Physics?


33. dorigo - October 14, 2007

Hello Qbit,

the centerfold… Nice picture. Yes, we really know very little about our universe, and when we try to explain too much of it we become really more speculative than we should be… I think Lisa or anybody else can have their conjectures about the “centerfold”, but you are not likely to get an answer because I do not think there is one…


34. Ed Darrell - May 28, 2008

Dr. Randall is a very charming person. Like Feynman, like Pauling, like Sagan, the charm goes a long way.

The astounding thing is that she is a physicist, and saves the charm for explaining physics. That is not so much different from any other profession.

And as with all really charming people, we probably rate them as more attractive simply because we find them so charming.

Ever meet Ted Turner? Leslie Stahl? Bob Schieffer? Ted Kennedy? Same thing.

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